What We're Reading

Daily Reads: States Move to Criminalize Dissent; GOP Doesn’t Want You to See Their Health Bill

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: States Move to Criminalize Dissent

On Monday June 12, 2017 Gays Against Guns and 20 partnering LGBTQ nightclubs participated in the one-year anniversary remembering the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Watershed gerrymandering case –> The Supreme Court has thrown out a number of states’ electoral maps on the basis that they discriminated against minorities, but the Court has long held that carving up districts for partisan purposes is OK. That could change as a lower court ruling that Wisconsin’s map was unconstitutional works its way to the justices. The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes has more details.

Must be a real stinker –> Caitlin Owens reports for Axios that “Republicans are working to finish their draft health care bill, but have no plans to publicly release it… ‘We aren’t stupid,’ said [a Senate] aide.” Owens adds that “Democratic senators are already slamming Republicans for the secrecy of their bill writing process, and this isn’t going to help.”

And Ryan Cooper reports for The Week that Republicans are closer to coming to an agreement on a bill to repeal the ACA than many people think.

The resistance is gearing up for an all-out push to kill the bill this month, as Republicans say they hope to vote on it before the July 4 recess. Here’s the Resistance Manual on Health Care.

Trump versus Trump –> The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Trump’s Muslim ban on Monday, citing Trump’s own tweets, which contradicted what administration lawyers had argued about the policy. Ana Campoy reports for Quartz that the justices “also cited a CNN story reporting that the president’s own press secretary says @realDonaldTrump tweets are ‘official statements.’” This is the sixth time that a court has ruled that the travel ban — both iterations — is unconstitutional.

Kremlingate –> According to a Buzzfeed investigation bylined by six reporters, “the British government is suppressing explosive intelligence that Alexander Perepilichnyy, a financier who exposed a vast financial crime by Russian government officials, was likely assassinated on the direct orders of Vladimir Putin.” Perepilichnyy was found dead at his Surrey home after a mysterious trip to Paris, and “despite an expert detecting signs of a fatal plant poison in his stomach, the British police have insisted there was no evidence of foul play, and Theresa May’s government has invoked national security powers to withhold evidence from the inquest into his cause of death.”

Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson report for Bloomberg that “Russia’s cyberattack on the US electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.” According to the report, hackers hit election systems in 39 states.

And Slate’s Jeremy Stahl reports that the sensitive intelligence that Trump reportedly shared with Russian officials last month included details “about a successful Israeli cyberbreach of [ISIS] that had uncovered plans to blow up planes with bombs that could fool airport security.” Despite the seriousness of the breach, Stahl says that “Republicans in Congress have shown little interest in investigating the episode.”

Live from the fever swamp –> Megyn Kelly is under fire for giving right-wing conspiracy-monger Alex Jones a prominent platform on NBC, according to The Hollywood Reporter. JP Morgan Chase has pulled all of its advertising from the network until after the segment airs.

Saturday Night Massacre redux? –> At Salon, Matthew Sheffield writes that Newt Gingrich and other prominent pro-Trump voices appear to be laying the groundwork for Trump to fire former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

And Chris Ruddy, a Trump ally, told Judy Woodruff that he might.

Democrats are sending warning shots across Trump’s bow. Sarah Burris reports for Raw Story that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told MSNBC that if Trump were to pull the trigger, “there will be a firestorm, much like there was in the wake of the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in the Watergate era and that we will see legislation.”

In somewhat related news, Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott report for ProPublica that “Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.” They add: “At the time of Bharara’s firing the Southern District was conducting an investigation into Trump’s secretary of the health and human services, Tom Price.”

Sessions’ day –> Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Intelligence Committee. At The Nation, Joan Walsh looks at some of the questions surrounding Sessions’ unreported contacts with Russian officials.

On Monday, a judge ordered the DOJ to produce, within 30 days, the portions of Sessions’ security clearance form where he was supposed to reveal contacts with foreign entities, according to Eli Watkins at CNN.

Sessions has claimed that he didn’t mention meeting with Russian officials when asked about the matter during his confirmation hearing because he thought the question only pertained to his work on behalf of the Trump campaign, and not in his capacity as a US senator. But The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe writes that “an examination of Sessions’ activities in 2016 calls this defense of his testimony into question. It shows a significant spike in the frequency of his contacts with foreign officials after he joined the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser in March.” She adds that “some of those who met with Sessions said they sought him out not because he was a senator, but precisely because of his role as a Trump campaign surrogate, tasked with advising the campaign on matters of national security.”

The White House may invoke executive privilege to block Sessions testimony on some matters. It “depends on the scope of the questions,” White House Communications Director Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday.

Relatedly, Sessions has also been subpoenaed to testify in the criminal contempt trial of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly.

Comforting news –> Benjamin Powers reports for Mother Jones that “an abandoned US nuclear base in Greenland could start leaking toxic waste because of global warming.” Some hoax.

It’s getting weirder by the day –> In case you missed it, Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports for The New York Times that on Monday Donald Trump held “a highly unusual cabinet meeting in which he sought to deflect attention from his faltering agenda… by basking in the adulation of senior members of the government.” Despite having passed no legislation of any significance, and with many of his executive actions held up in the courts, Trump began the session thusly: “I will say that never has there been a president… who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done.” Then, writes Davis, “the president went around the table asking for a statement from each cabinet member. One by one, they said their names and paid tribute to Mr. Trump, describing how honored they were to serve in his administration as he nodded approvingly.”

This is not what democracy looks like –> Ruthann Robson reports for Vox that “there are disturbing signs of a nationwide attempt to crack down on dissent,” including “a new array of state and local level proposals has sought to regulate dissent, seemingly prompted by Black Lives Matter, pro-environmental, and anti-Trump protests.”

Emoluments –> Yesterday, we mentioned that the attorneys general for Maryland and DC filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump’s businesses violate the Constitution. At The Intercept, Naomi Klein writes that “the lawsuit touches on a fraction of the ways in which Trump is actively profiting from the presidency.” Klein runs down “a whole web of ways the Trumps can make money off their names and their official and unofficial roles in the White House.”

So effective that they want to kill it –> Arthur Delaney writes at HuffPo about the food stamp program’s long track record of success alleviating hunger in America, and adds that with unified Republican control of the federal government, “there is no doubt that changes to food stamps are coming.”

The militia feels like home” –> At The Forward, Sam Kestenbaum offers an odd but gripping tale of how a reformed Jew from Ohio ended up married to the daughter of a white supremacist and leading a far-right, Trump-loving militia that trains for what its members see as inevitable societal collapse.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

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